Talladega was as unpredictable, wild, and crazy as most expected it to be. Congratulations to Denny Hamlin, who was able to avoid all the carnage and be out front when the caution came out on the last lap due to a large piece of debris laying on the racing surface on the frontstretch. Officials had to throw the yellow flag because there was no way for the drivers to avoid the debris and not hit it coming back to the line. Hamlin picked up his first restrictor-plate points paying win and locked himself into the Chase with the win. He is the second Joe Gibbs Racing driver to lock himself into the Chase, joining Kyle Busch from the JGR stable to assure himself of a chance to compete for the championship. Hamlin will now look to make it two in a row at Kansas next week on Saturday night.
The Kansas Speedway was one of two tracks to be introduced to the Cup Series in 2001. It was modeled after the Las Vegas Motor Speedway with 17 degrees of banking in the corners. Kansas later underwent a remodeling process that gave it progressive banking, meaning the higher up the track a driver goes, the higher the banking is. Kansas played host to a single Cup race for the first ten years of operation before being awarded a second date starting in 2011. This year, the race will be run under newly installed lights on Saturday night. With this race and the next two races being held under the lights at Charlotte, it will be a month before there is racing in the daytime again.
Most wins among active drivers: Two (five drivers)
Defending Winner: Matt Kenseth continued to show his dominance on the 1.5-mile tracks last year, picking up his second of what would be seven wins during the 2013 season, four of which came on 1.5-mile tracks. It was this race last year where Kenseth and his team encountered a post-race inspection snafu. The connecting rods in the engine were below minimum weight requirements and NASCAR initially came down hard on the 20 team, suspending both crew chief Jason Ratcliffe and team owner Joe Gibbs for six races, taking away the pole award, 50 points, and made Kenseth’s win ineligible for bonus points at the end of the regular season when the Chase began. The problem was that Joe Gibbs Racing didn’t and still doesn’t build its own engines. The organization receives its engines directly from the Toyota Racing Development organization in California and they are installed in the cars after arriving at the shop. JGR appealed the penalties and had the 50-point penalty reduced to 12 and had the three bonus points that accompanied the win returned. Ratcliffe’s suspension was reduced to a single race and Gibbs had his eliminated completely.
Prediction: After looking at past results from Kansas and best average finish for all drivers at this track, I’m picking the driver who looked like he was in good position to make a run on Denny Hamlin before the caution came out. Greg Biffle is one of the five active drivers who have two wins here and both have come in the fall event. Biffle has an average finishing position of 10.3, which is the best for him on all tracks. One of the two wins that Biffle has came in 2007. He had to wait out multiple rainstorms and avoided a multicar pileup that took out a bunch of contenders. Then with daylight fading and no lights, NASCAR was forced to end the race under caution. However, while the cars were following the pace car, Biffle was running low on gas and Clint Bowyer passed Biffle, but NASCAR declared that since the field was frozen, the pass was disallowed and Biffle was allowed to keep the win. With that kind of success, look for Biffle to be up front and challenging for the win on Saturday night.
David Barr is a graduate of Daniel Boone High School and is a graduating senior at Mansfield University.